Each year, Artown selects a local artist to produce artwork for which the festival’s marketing collateral is based. The artist for 2008 is Reno’s Steve Bloom.
Bloom’s work fits hand-in-glove with Artown, an event that pulls together myriad art forms, from ballet to marching bands, visual arts to aerial acrobats. Similarly, Bloom’s work invokes the movement of dance and the fluid lyricism of music. Subjects are often musicians, dancers and singers.
Not surprisingly, Bloom creates while listening to music; in fact, he does everything to music.
“My brain doesn’t function without music,” he says.
Bloom’s loose, almost abstract works begin as sketches worked out on a random napkin or scrap of paper. Then he goes to the computer screen and begins to create the work digitally.
“It allows me to go off on a tangent,” Bloom says.
Bloom enjoys the spontaneity of the creative process. Letting his imagination run free, he often does not know what he’ll end up with until the work is in progress. This is a style he’s been working with, in some form or another since he was quite young. For more than a decade, through high school, Bloom was a passionate saxophone player. He practiced for hours every day, seven days a week. By the age of 14, he was getting paid to play live shows in nightclubs.
“I didn’t like to play note for note,” Bloom says. “I like freedom and simplicity.”
Bloom carries this free-form approach to his artwork. His works appear as a jazz improv for the eyes.
Sometimes, he says, he starts with just a line, sees what image that invokes and proceeds from there.
One such piece that emerged in this way is “Sister Act” which depicts his mother and her sisters singing at stand-up microphones. Mom’s in a flowing little black dress, the sisters in white. The figures are discernable, but they almost blend into the liquid beigey-brown background. Created with all of the work Bloom creates in his signature style, this image looks like a reflection of a scene in a flowing river. The wispy, watery lines and brushes of color give life to the singers.
When Bloom has finished a piece, the work is printed out on paper or canvas. Bloom has been working in this unique style of “digital drawing,” as he calls it, for more than a dozen years. Bloom started in the medium as he was looking to develop his own brand, to do something no one else was doing. And he was on the cutting edge of that technology, involved in developing the inks and paper to advance the process. “There was a lot of trial and error,” says Bloom.
Bloom had access to the most advanced digital equipment through Talon Graphics, a printing business he and his wife founded and owned in San Clemente, Calif. For 20 years, beginning in 1985, the couple created high quality prints for artists of international fame, including modernist David Hockney and Hank Ketcham—illustrator of Dennis the Menace cartoons. When digital technology became available in the mid-'90s, the company invested in it completely.
As for the Artown 2008 design, it’s a work still in progress, but early evidence suggests it incorporates a cello in the design.